THE GREATEST PHOTO EVER
You don't need five starters in the postseason. Which isn't an issue with a lot of clubs, since their fifth starters are marginal pitchers who don't really have any sort of claim on incredibly high-leverage October innings.
That's not the Giants, though. Not obviously, anyway. There are good things to be said about all five Giants starters, who have started all but two of the club's 153 games. So what happens to them next month in the playoffs? Via MLB.com's Chris Haft:
Manager Bruce Bochy announced Sunday that all five pitchers in the Giants' starting rotation will be on the club's postseason roster, though one of them must switch to a relief role.
Bochy added that the selection of the postseason starters and the order in which they'll be used could hinge more on the Division Series schedule -- whether the Giants open at home or on the road -- than on which team the Giants face.
Since Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are locks to make the postseason rotation, Bochy and his staff will have to choose among Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito to fill the four-man contingent.
Two years ago when the Giants won the World Series, Barry Zito earned $18.5 million during the regular season, then was left off the roster throughout the postseason. So one might imagine that he's thrilled with this news.
Is Zito better now than then, though? His ERA is almost exactly the same. His context-adjusted ERA is worse. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is slightly worse. There is one big difference, though. So far, anyway.
Zito was terrible down the stretch in 2010. In his last 10 starts, he went 1-8 with a 6.61 ERA. In his last two starts -- starts which seemed terribly important, at the time -- Zito walked seven batters in 7⅓ innings. People were booing and stuff.
This season, Zito struggled in August again. But he's been good in September: 2.66 ERA, 20 strikeouts and only five walks in 23⅔ innings.
In 2010, it was terribly obvious that Zito wasn't one of the Giants' four best starting pitchers, and he'd shown no propensity for pitching effectively as a relief pitcher, either. In 2012, it's not as obvious that he's not one of the Giants' four best starters. Tim Lincecum's been shaky all season, although he's pitched decently this month. Meanwhile, Vogelsong's got an 8.66 ERA in his four September starts.
It still doesn't seem all that likely that Zito will get a chance to start. And it's not like the Giants need a lefty in the bullpen; they've already got three of those beasts, and all three have pitched well. Which means that unless Vogelsong or Lincecum pitched poorly between now and next Wednesday, Zito's role will probably be Long Man, allowed to pitch only if one of the other guys gets knocked out of a game early, or the Giants are way behind late.